Developers of Chicago’s largest private projects would be required to sign affidavits spelling out their efforts to share the wealth with minorities, under an executive order signed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that disappointed minority aldermen.
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), newly elected chairman of the City Council’s Hispanic Caucus, said without specific goals, developers who stand to make a killing by building residential and commercial projects in the North Branch corridor will have no incentive to give minorities a piece of the pie.
“I would have liked to have seen the mayor go further and try to immediately codify some type of goals to basically put developers on notice that there has to be some diversity,” Villegas said Tuesday. “If there’s not any type of stick with a carrot, then you’re not gonna have diversity throughout the whole project — all the way from the development team to workers in the field.”
Villegas said he would “wait to see what the first development looks like” in the 760-acre North Branch corridor. That will determine whether “legislation” is required, he said.
“I started at 66 percent. They started at zero. I think we can agree to meet in the middle somewhere,” Villegas said.
Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman said the affidavit requirement is a “first step towards being able to implement something even more rigorous in the zoning context.”
“You have to collect the data. You have to vet the data. And it has to be able to withstand legal challenges,” he said.
“In the exercise of police power for zoning, there are some limitations on what can be imposed. So, what we have tried to do is start a process of collecting data and thus, establishing the baseline that may allow us to do a more rigorous requirement,” Reifman said.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the Black Caucus, said he understands the need to go slow.
“Goals without any corresponding information would not pass constitutional muster. And I want to make sure we’re careful and doing it the right way,” Sawyer said. “I don’t consider this the end-all, be-all. We’re not just walking away saying that we’re happy. But it’s a start.”
Three months ago, the Black, Hispanic and Progressive Caucuses, which together control 31 City Council votes, merged their political muscle to demand that every project in the North Branch corridor have a community benefits agreement attached with a “strict requirement that 66 percent” of all jobs go to blacks and Hispanics and 66 percent of all contracts go to minority-owned businesses.
Instead, Emanuel is starting slowly. His executive order would require developers seeking planned development zoning approval from the Plan Commission to submit signed affidavits detailing their efforts to promote “local hiring” and “incorporate participation by certified” minority-and women-owned businesses.
Affidavits would be required at three different stages of the development process.
Before Plan Commission consideration, developers would have to spell out “planned outreach efforts,” including “community meetings, hiring fairs, direct marketing and other methods,” the executive order states.
A second affidavit would be required before building permits are issued. At that time, developers would have to record all “completed and future outreach efforts, along with response from potential participants.”
The third affidavit would have to be submitted upon completion of the project. That one would identify actual Minority Business Enterprise and Women’s Business Enterprise (MBE and WBE) participation and spell out local hiring.
Currently, developers are required to share the wealth with minorities and women, only if they seek city subsidies, city financing or purchase city land.
Planned developments are special zoning designations reserved for Chicago’s largest, tallest and most dense projects. Last year, they accounted for $3.7 billion in construction costs and 18,000 jobs.